Business Weekly Reporter
The dairy sector is one key barometer of the Zimbabwean economy and must be accorded strategic sector status alongside other agricultural sectors that are getting Command Agriculture subsidy support, an industry expert has said.
Speaking at the Zimbabwe Association of Dairy Farmers annual general meeting in Nyanga this week, Antony Mandiwanza, made an appeal to the Minister of State For Provincial Affairs, Manicaland, Monica Mutsvangwa on behalf of dairy processors that the dairy sector also needed assistance to help protect the jobs.
Mr Mandiwanzira said players in the sector had responded to the challenge to invest in the dairy industry from just having two large processors to the current 7 while small-scale processors increased to 28.
“What it says is that the response on the processing side has been more than remarkable and there is now need to focus on making sure that milk production is dealt with so that the investment made is protected.
“If the investment in the dairy processing sector is not protected it means that the mantra that Zimbabwe is open for business will not obtain if investments already made in the dairy processing sector are not sustained.”
Mr Mandiwanza who is also the chief executive officer of the country’s biggest dairy processor, Dairibord Zimbabwe Limited, said the key issue from a processors point of view is how to make sure that the investment that has been made in the dairy processing sector are sustained.
“The challenge is not new, but how you respond to it might be new.
“At the dawn of independence, there was a shortage of milk and the Government deliberately decided to coin the dairy industry as a strategic sector and all we are asking is that let us revisit and simply say it is a strategic sector as much as growing crops under Command is a strategic issue, that must apply in the dairy industry equally.”
Command Agriculture is a Zimbabwean agricultural scheme aimed at ensuring food self-sufficiency that was introduced at the start of the 2016 – 2017 farming season following the drought of the previous season.
While the programme initially focused on crops, it has since been extended to livestock with Government handing over 660 heifers to 151 beneficiaries from Matabeleland South’s seven districts, last month.
“The basic structure for reviving the dairy industry is there, but what we ought to do is to demonstrate, not by talking, but by doing.”
Mr Mandiwanza said for dairy farmers to be encouraged to grow milk they must have confidence that the investment, which requires a minimum of five years return on investment, is secured.
“It starts basically on the issue of the land. Giving people a five year lease at a dairy production base does not work.
“In fact what it says is we are not understanding what dairying is all about,” he said.
Mr Mandiwanza said the country spends about $7 million a month to import powdered milk instead of securing strategic inputs such as drugs and medicine which are required to grow milk in the country.
“So its prioritisation of our resources and we can only do that if we can call the dairy industry as a strategic area of emphasis so that Government energy is focused accordingly,” said Mandiwanza.